UK manufacturing is one sector struggling with major sustainable growth.

To tackle this, Digital Catapult and the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult have been awarded £2m by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to accelerate the use of digital solutions and tackle major sustainability challenges in the sector.

The two Catapults will work with industry partners and innovative small businesses to transform the country’s manufacturing sector by using advanced digital technologies to deliver greater resource efficiency and energy efficiency (REEE).

Both Catapults are part of the national Catapult Network of leading technology and innovation centres established by Innovate UK, and the project is funded by the Made Smarter Innovation Challenge at Innovate UK.

The Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator will facilitate sustainable economic growth by expediting adoption of industrial digital technologies (IDT) in manufacturing – a traditionally long and costly process.

The programme comes amid growing demand to move manufacturing towards net zero and help the industry meet the UK Government’s environmental objectives. The manufacturing sector contributes over 11% to UK GVA but 12% of UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the Government’s 2017 Made Smarter Review into industrial digitalisation set out a 4.5% target reduction of CO2 emissions.

In the 2021 Net Zero Strategy, a legally binding target of 68% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 was also included.

Five industry partners will work with the Catapults to scope and define two real-world sustainability challenges each. Ten startups will join the programme to prototype and pilot innovative solutions to these challenges that utilise artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies.

The startup solutions will help the five manufacturing partners improve productivity, cut costs and drive down carbon emissions. Over the course of the two-year programme, it is hoped the industrial partners will generate a combined £2.75m in value from their initial £625,000 investment.

Katherine Bennett, of HVM Catapult, said: “By bringing together industry heavyweights, technology developers and subject-matter experts to prove-out ideas and develop them rapidly, this programme can find solutions to the biggest challenges facing manufacturers right now. Through this, we can deliver a UK manufacturing sector that is resilient, flexible, productive and – vitally – environmentally sustainable.”

Jeremy Silver, Digital Catapult, added: “The UK’s vibrant tech startup sector is a deep well of untapped opportunity for manufacturing industries. Resource and energy efficiency gains are examples of the ways in which advanced digital technologies – and the innovative startups that use them – support growth and sustainability gains for industry through new products and services that can disrupt traditional approaches.

“Digital Catapult-led programmes such as the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator and the Made Smarter Innovation Digital Supply Chain Hub have already shown how to make smart use of small amounts of public money to drive private investment and create tangible impact in support of both large industrial players and smaller, agile businesses”.